The Impact of Service on Frontline Worker Mental Health – 2 Part Session

April 3rd, 2024

Part One – 11 am to 12:30 pm

Part Two – 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm

Glen 204 – TELUS Convention Centre Calgary

About this session

This two-part series features a morning session led by the CEO of First Responder Health Services, Matthew Johnston and the CEO of Wayfound Mental Health Group, Dr. Megan McElheran. Together, Matthew and Megan will discuss how organizations can implement scalable, evidence-informed mental health initiatives that sustain the wellness of frontline worker health. Leaders will be provided a framework on how to promote psychological safety through education in the workplace, by exploring a model that focuses on capacity-sustainability through harnessing the potential of organizational resiliency.

In session 2, a moderated panel of seasoned first responders will provide attendees a firsthand look into the lived experience of psychological wellness and injury on the frontlines. These stories will be complimented with the experiences of a clinical psychologist who has been treating frontline workers for nearly two decades. Attendees will be invited to reflect on their own journey in a way that entices self-awareness and healing promotion – which contributes to optimizing one’s emotional health and well-being throughout their career serving vulnerable members of society.

Target Audience:

Session 1

Leaders of frontline staff including supervisors, senior administrators, human resources, return to work specialists and other organizational influencers.

Session 2

Frontline staff who are interested in optimizing personal health and wellness while balancing their roles serving vulnerable members of society. Healthcare providers seeking to develop and/or enhance cultural competency in working with frontline staff

Morning – Session 1

Mobilizing Data to Build Informed Tools that Reduce Frontline Stressors

The challenges may not go away, but the way we prepare and train for them can influence our sustained well-being.

This presentation will identify and normalize common stressors that impact frontline workers’ mental health and well-being. A recurring theme will focus on utilizing data to identify pragmatic solutions that restore individual mental health and foster healthy connections in the workplace. Attendees will learn about two well-established psychoeducational initiatives that have been applied to various frontline worker groups – and how their respective organizations can adopt these innovative strategies.

Bonus! Healthcare providers attending this session will be provided complimentary access to the Alberta Occupational Awareness Training Program. An online program developed by Matthew and Megan that assists healthcare providers on enhancing their cultural competency skills when providing care to frontline workers. Once completed, eligible providers will be invited to join Canada’s first national Directory of Occupationally Aware Healthcare Providers – a free and accessible directory that streamlines frontline worker to accessing your services.


Matthew Johnston, CEO, First Responder Health Services, A mental health clinician and full-time professional firefighter, Matt has mastered the art of bringing frontline workers and healthcare providers closer together. Since 2017, Matt has trained over 500 healthcare providers on how to provide culturally competent care for clients serving on the frontline and is a sought-after subject matter expert on evaluating programs that benefit first responders and their families. Matt’s passion lies in mobilizing data on psychological injuries to shape innovative solutions that work to reduce injury, leading to greater retention and recruitment of frontline staff.

Dr. Megan McElheran, Clinical Psychologist & CEO, The Wayfound Group, Leading a national clinic and proud Calgarian, Megan is the founder of the Before Operational Stress (BOS) Program – one of the very few evidence-based programs that have shown to improve the mental health and wellbeing of first responders. In 2022, the BOS Program was awarded a prestigious grant through the Public Health Agency of Canada to provide training to over 100,000 public safety personnel in Canada. Now Megan looks to bring her expertise and training program to all frontline workers across Canada.

Afternoon – Session 2

The Lived Experience of Psychological Injury & Recovery on the Frontline

Fostering Hope & Self-Compassion to Enhance Care for Frontline Workers

The power of storytelling will leave attendees feeling a renewed sense of hope and self-compassion for the impact that service has had on them and their colleagues. Moderated by Steve Farina with insights from Dr. Megan McElheran, attendees will learn from a multi-disciplinary group of frontline professionals who have experienced setback and triumphed to experience an enriched connection with life and career.

Moderator – Steve Farina, VP, BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, Over 30 years serving on the frontline, Captain Steve Farina is internationally recognized for his work on advancing awareness on the unique psychological challenges facing first responders. A key member in shaping and lobbying presumptive mental health legislation for first responders, Steve’s work has been featured on Movember advertising campaigns and recognized by the International Association of Fire Fighters. In 2022, Steve was named one of 20 Champions of Mental Health by the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment.

Panel Members:

Micheal Elliott, Staff Sergeant, Edmonton Police Service, Prior to joining the Edmonton Police Service, Micheal spent five years serving Canada as an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Throughout his 19 years of policing, Michael has occupied a variety of leadership roles including President of the Alberta Federation of Police Associations and Vice Chair of the International Critical incident Stress Foundation. He is a Director at the Canadian Police Association and was appointed the Order of Merit by the Governor General of Canada. Micheal’s unwavering commitment to mental health is reflected in his own journey when in January 2023 he stepped away from policing to receive treatment for PTSD.

Paul Hills, President, Saskatoon Paramedic Association, Paul has served the City of Saskatoon as a frontline EMS Paramedic for the past 24 years. He is a seasoned Union Executive with over 18 years experience advocating for health and wellness initiatives as part of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Paul has a unique ability to use his lived experience as a busy frontline emergency worker to develop progressive mental health initiatives that improve the working lives of his colleagues. Paul will share how the values of family and social connection is foundational to sustaining personal wellness on the frontline.

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